Careening toward a holiday weekend here in the States and…if I could ONLY rest. I need it, but there is so much to DO! *silent scream*
Rest is crucial, yet is often undervalued, mocked and even punished in modern culture. Regardless of profession, the evidence is undeniable that our brains need a break. Taking time off and—GASP—even having fun pays off in major ways. If you’re too busy to take time off? Then odds are you need more rest.
I am truly honored to be presenting for the Cruising Writers’ Retreat…and part of me is freaking out because I’ve always had a tough time resting and having fun.
How can you have fun when all the LAUNDRY is not finished?
This is likely why I was an early bloomer and got Shingles when I was forty. Hey, I am a work in progress, too. Yet, having been someone who’s hit the WALL (more than once, since I’m a Type A overachiever), I thought I’d take time to address the chronically busy.
Many of us see an ad for a writing retreat, let alone one on a CRUISE and recoil. Oh, the cost, and the time and I have so much to DO! You just don’t get it. Such a frivolity, I can’t…
*hangs head between knees*
Yes, you can. I can. This is not a frivolity, it’s an investment. Here is why. Vacations cost money, but burnout can cost us far more than cash…
Burnout is real. Burnout is that expanse beyond stress. When we are stressed we still believe we can ‘get things under control.’ We still believe we can win at this game of Life Whack-A-Mole and ADD IN Publishing Whack-A-Mole! #Genius #OrNot
Burnout happens for a number of reasons.
Maybe we haven’t learned how to set effective boundaries. Instead of us being in charge of our day, everyone else wants a piece of our time. We free up an hour here, then almost immediately fill it with some new activity. Our internal resources (energy, passion, and will) steadily become stretched beyond capacity until…SNAP.
We are, in effect, red-lining our engine. Like a car, it IS possible to push into and past the red line…but only for so long. Anything pushed for long periods of time beyond designed capacities will eventually fail.
An engine burns up. Humans burn OUT.
Without proper rest, we tip past that often invisible line into a dangerous area. Unlike being in a state of stress where we still care, we still believe if we just worked harder, and where we still have hope, burnout is a dead zone. This is a place of apathy.
Stress impacts our body and mind, but burnout is a malaise of the soul.
This is when we become despondent, angry, hopeless, and see no point to what we’re doing. As authors, it’s easy to get to this point (where most give up). We often still have to work a day job, take care of family responsibilities, tend general ‘adulting.’ Some of us might be in the role of caregiver for elderly or ill parents.
When we finish ALL THIS…then we write.
Not only do we need to write, but there’s social media, branding, platform, newsletters, marketing, algorithms, guest posts, and promotion and pretty soon we fly off Hell’s Hamster Wheel and CRASH.
Change Your Space
It seems so simple. Rest more. Deep down we KNOW we’re being foolish by never letting up on the gas pedal. Can’t we just learn to invoke the NO? Why do we promise to set boundaries, only to one day wake up with nothing left?
All we can think about is running away from home…but that would take too much energy. Energy we don’t have. Besides, we would have to leave our blanket fort.
The reason this happens is we lose perspective. We get so caught in the routine of life that, when small tasks keep piling on, we don’t notice the additional heat.
It’s like the slow-boiling frog sitting there as the temperature notches up ever so slowly. We don’t even realize anything is amiss, that we need to JUMP. Because this heat is building incrementally, we’re utterly unaware we’re being boiled alive.
Changing location does wonders for combatting burnout. It obviously can give us the much-needed rest. Additionally, once we step out of the everyday, we gain perspective.
A fresh vantage point offers us renewed clarity on exactly how much garbage is crammed into our day. What can GO? Which tasks can be delegated? Why are we leaving our writing for last (if there is any time left)?
Also, changing location allows the brain time to take all the data it has collected (television, books, ideas, conversations, dreams) and make these loose connections come TOGETHER. This is the time that novel might all come together. It might be the place where we finally SEE what we’ve been doing wrong (or right) all along!
Some of the greatest revelations in history happened during a BREAK. Newton’s sudden epiphany about gravity occurred while out on a leisurely walk, NOT when he was in his study cramming more notes and math into his brain.
Now, it didn’t ALL come to him on that walk. The information was in his head. It took getting away for his brain to be able to SHOW him the final BIG PICTURE.
Broaden Your World
Again, a retreat like this is an investment in YOU and your art and your future. It’s ensuring your imagination’s proper development.
As an analogy, what have we learned about working the same muscles over and over? Eventually, one ends up with what is known as a ‘repetitive work injury.’ Maybe the same repeated motion tears out a rotator cuff or we develop carpal tunnel or crippling tendonitis.
In short, the same over and over can serve up some debilitating consequences. We need to rest certain muscle groups.
When at the gym we don’t use only one machine, work only one muscle group. If we do, we’re asking for a lot of pain in the future. The ideal goal for optimal fitness is to cross-train. We want to challenge our body in different ways, on different planes, from different angles, right? We also need days off. Rest days where the body can recuperate.
The same goes for our imagination and mind. If we’ve only ever experienced one sort of life, our ability to empathize, to get into the heads of other characters, to be able to describe other landscapes, etc. can only develop to a certain level (eventually it will become stunted).
Sure, we can use books and movies to help, much like I can use a machine to mimic climbing a mountain.
But is the mountain climbing machine the same as going and climbing an actual mountain? On the machine, it is all safe and controlled and only challenges a limited range of what I can do.
On a mountain, I must contend with altitude, wind, weather, terrain that might suddenly be GONE (landslide) and be able to keep pressing. Tethered to a cliff, I must face terror, exhaustion, doubt…the urge to PEE.
Also? Climbing a REAL mountain comes with great stories, experiences, pictures, and actual bragging rights.
Imagination and creativity are the same. YES, please read. I can always tell writers who not only don’t read the genre they want to sell books in, but can really spot those who don’t read at ALL. But second-hand experience only develops our minds so much. Virtual can only go so far.
Networking (Yeah, Get Out More)
One of the greatest advantages we can gain from a conference, a retreat or even a cruise retreat is that we will make friends and connections in person. Also, these connections are of a different caliber (bear with me). Anyone can hop on-line for free and claim they take their writing careers seriously. Maybe they do.
I know we all start somewhere. When I started writing, I’d lost everything and had to live with my disabled mother. We were broke, eating Ramen and praying the lights wouldn’t be shut off.
But at least we had each other 🙂 …
Anyway, joining a local writing critique group was my first step in networking. I put skin in the game. It cost me $35 a year and time (attendance). Eventually, though, I plateaued. I kept getting rejected and had no idea how to fix my novel. Books only taught so much.
It wasn’t until I scraped up enough money for my first writing conference that I experienced my first GIANT leap ahead.
The reason was because a) the conference had experts I had no in-person access to otherwise and b) fellow attendees took their futures seriously enough to put out money and invest in success. This weeded out a lot of the hobbyists I’d been surrounded by for years.
Hobbyists could barely be bothered to attend a meeting for a critique group that cost less than $6 a month. Not everyone in the group was dead broke like I was. They simply didn’t take their writing seriously enough to sacrifice financially to make it to the next level.
I know some folks do face the financial challenge, but others can find money for everyone else’s dream but are too scared or too guilty to do the same for their own. Why are other’s wants, needs and dreams more worthy? IS it necessary for us to always be last…you, know, if anything is left over.
I’ve been both. I’m crazy generous with those I care about but spend money on myself? Are you crazy?
And that is how I ended up burned out, hiding in a blanket fort.
Enjoy Returns on Rest
Maybe y’all have heard of ROI (Return on Investment). This is about RoR (Return on Rest). By attending a conference, I got away, had fun, made friends, broadened my world and recharged. Yet, this ‘vacation’ was far more than the mental, emotional and professional rest I needed.
I made connections with TRUE professionals (NYT & USA Today best-selling authors, NYC literary agents, NYC editors, publicists, experts) who showed me how ‘publishing’ really worked. They shortened my learning curve by pointing me to better resources and also demolishing a lot of my ‘fantasies.’
That part kinda sucked, but operating from truth is better than being stuck in a delusion.
Rest (coupled with learning) helped me recalibrate my expectations (I.e. I was not going to land an agent and a three-book million-dollar deal with my first query letter).
Sorry if I just bummed any of y’all out. Bummed me out for sure.
What is Your TIME Worth?
For those who join us in October, I promise to shorten your learning curve by a decade. How much of ten years of ineffectiveness going to cost? Count the cost of writing books you can’t seem to finish?
Or what about building a brand or platform the wrong way and having to tear down and or start over? It happens all the time.
There is a LOT of misinformation about what a brand and platform IS and how and where to build one. I make all this terrifying stuff fun, simple and effective. You guys are writers, not high-pressure salespeople and mega-marketers and I have ZERO interest in training you how to be one.
Namely, because that crap doesn’t work. So give it a rest 😉 .
My blog gets 1.1 million hits a month, about a half a million unique visits a year, and I have over 50,000 dedicated subscribers (suffice to say maybe I know a little). I’ve never automated, never used a newsletter, and pretty much only have time for some goofing off on Facebook.
Ads, gimmicks, and high-pressure promotional campaigns didn’t build this number. Common sense and FUN built it. Maybe I’ll add in a newsletter or some ads and promotion to enhance what I already have, but I chose to build my brand/platform on relationships and authentic connections. Those last a LOT longer than the latest fads.
Technology changes. People don’t. Don’t believe me? Read Shakespeare. Go look up your ex on Facebook.
There, proved my point.
For many, I know suggesting a cruise ranks along with me suggesting you indulge in eating a plate of hot wings coated in gold dust while relaxing in a Learjet. Trust me, I get it. A cruise seems way too out of reach, and maybe it is (for now.)
When I was broke and struggling, mastering couponing more than writing, I learned to call this my meantime.
What was true at the moment didn’t mean it was true forever. Back then, going hiking for a day or walking my dogs in a nice park were my forms of rest. And even then, resting was hard (perhaps even more so). I was THIRTY-FOUR, living with my MOTHER and needed to WORK and on and on…and guess what?
I burned out then, too.
For others, all the money you might be tempted to throw into gimmicky nonsense that won’t work (or at least not for long)? Use that moolah for the cruise. I’d love a chance to meet you.
We can hang out, ask the staff how many bodies can fit in the dessert cooler and how long until anyone would notice the smell…then learn what a cruise ship BRIG looks like!
On second thought, the pool looks nice.
Regardless, people are like computers. Sometimes, all they need to work properly is to UNPLUG!
Trust me, email will be there when you get back.
What are your thoughts?
Do you have a hard time resting? Does the idea of a vacation give you apoplexy? It still does this to me. In fact, those who go on the cruise might need to make sure I don’t end up helping fold towels or bussing tables. Sigh. Do you find it easy to lavish on others, but you’re always dead last? And being last, do you find ‘The List’ repopulates before you get ‘your turn’?
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU!
What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…
Retelling Myths & Fairytales
Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST
Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.
One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.
Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.
The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST
Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.
A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.
This class will cover the following topics – and much more:
- The elements of a backstory;
- How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
- Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
- How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
- Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
- Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.
SIGN UP HERE!
A recording of this class is also included with purchase.
About the Instructor:
Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.
On Demand Training!
Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!
For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:
Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .
The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.
And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…
Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN!
I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.